Monday, November 16, 2015

Ragtime Music Denounced at Convention

Here's an old article on ragtime music from The Sunday Telegraph dated June 2, 1901. Notice the irony of the caption how "long haired individuals" says the music is "rot trash" and "distinctively vulgar"?  Pretty much the same reaction when Rock -n- Roll came onto the scene with The Beatles, Elvis and others. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Scott Joplin's Pianos - upright or grand piano?

Over the years I learned much about the King of Ragtime, Scott Joplin, and the kind of piano he may have played on either the upright or grand piano. Reading suggested works such as Dr Edward A. Berlin's two books on ragtime, a carefully researched, well-documented musicological and historical examinations on ragtime history, I learned that Scott Joplin had an upright he played on in New York City. But in Saint Louis he may have actually had a grand piano, and might have at least had access to one for composing and performance purposes in New York City.

If one looks at The Paragon Rag music sheet one could see on how it could only be properly played on a grand piano with a sostenuto pedal. A sustained chord for two measures cannot be done properly on an upright piano because it has no sustenuto pedal to begin with for that time period.  Only a select few very expensive ones with tricky mechanisms have a sostenuto pedal to make the piano piece work as written (Note: the sostenuto or middle pedal on most grands 5'5" or larger. One plays a chord, then press the sostenuto pedal down. Only those dampers will be held while the others will continue to mute after the key is released, allowing only the held notes to sustain). In any case, this would strongly suggests that Paragon Rag at the very least was composed with a grand piano in mind, and therefore possibly composed when he had access to one. Other Joplin pieces such as Bethena and Binks Waltz might have benefited from a grand piano as opposed to a vertical upright piano. Looking and listening to a Bethena or Binks Waltz music would more than likely call out for a tone befitting of a grand piano than not.  Scott Joplin may have used a grand piano at John Stark's store (music publisher on many of Scott Joplin’s ragtime composed pieces including the well-known and famous The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag songs), at a nearby social club or with some of his friends who had pianos. Knowing some of the history helps with learning on how to play, namely, Scott Joplin's  ragtime.

With thanks to "Perfessor Bill" who is a ragtime genius helped shed some light on the ragtime question.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Jennifer Castellano - a hearing and visually-impaired pianist

It is not often I come across a pianist on the internet born with hearing and vision loss. And when I do it is a treat. Because what she does is simply an inspiration. So is Sky Mundell in a piece I covered a few years back. Jennifer Castellano has been a pianist for over 20 years and a composer for over 10 years. She describes herself as a person born with hearing and visual impairments. You can visit her website to learn more.. There are links to her Facebook page, Twitter, and more. If you want to support her by downloading one of her performances go here. She is a member of the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss.  In September 2013, her own piano performances were included in the organization's CD recording entitled Hear This!  She has a few more CDs of her performances you can buy as well.

I am also a member of the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss for several years. I was also asked to provide a recording of my ragtime pieces for Hear This! CD compilations of deaf and hard of hearing musicians but unfortunately I never gotten around to getting it done. Although you can hear me play a couple of ragtime pieces here. I have been interviewed for a published book on deaf and hard of hearing musicians if you're curious about buying that book "Making Music with a Hearing Loss: Strategies and Stories" by Cherisse Miller who is also a pianist with hearing loss.

All in all, visit Jennifer Castellano's website! How often do you come across a pianist of that caliber?

K.K. Ragtime

K.K. Ragtime this is a song that came from a Nintendo video game called "Animal Crossing." K.K. Slider is the name of the dog character seen in this video. Kazumi Totaka is the original composer of the song in the video but this K.K. Ragtime piano piece was arranged by Ron O'Dell with . This is no old-timey ragtime song but it is certainly a modern ragtime piece that Tom Brier exclaimed after playing it for the time, "Oh, that's cute!"

The speed I'm playing matches that of the video even though the highly gifted and humble Tom Brier sight read the damned piece for the first time. Wish I could do that.

Hope you like it.

Ragtime Era Clothes

One good way to research ragtime era clothing (between 1890 and 1929) is to examine the cover sheets of old ragtime scores. This can be done by browsing at digital libraries such as the University of Colorado Digital Sheet Music Collection or any number of sources seen in the link on the right side column of my blog (scroll down some) under "Free Ragtime Sheets." In there you will find cover sheets that depict people or couples wearing clothes at the time of publication. A fairly accurate way to ensure that the clothes you see is indeed ragtime era clothing between 1890 and 1929 (which is the end period prior to the terrible stock market crash in 1929). Good times before everything went south. This will help gain a better understanding on the types of clothing to wear if you decide to dress correctly for that era such wearing costumes for ragtime festivals, ragtime society groups, or compete in World Championship Old Time Piano Playing contests when the rules call for clothes as an authentic period dress, preferably so between 1890 and 1929.


A deaf pianist?

A  deaf pianist??  Is there such a thing? Certainly. I am one of them. Specifically, a deaf ragtime pianist. I am also hard of hearing if that helps since I do have useable hearing in my right ear I take advantage of with my hearing aid. My left ear is no good.

Playing the piano is something I love to do and it is no mystery to me that deaf people can be pianists, enjoy playing it and be good at it. When I get the chance to sit down at the piano it becomes a relaxing affair even when I'm practicing a new ragtime piece. I'm no beginner here. I began playing the piano since I was 7 years old. That was over 40 years ago. Discovered ragtime in my early teens.   I continue to play and practice new ragtime songs on my 1920 Thompson player piano as well as my Kohler & Campbell piano. I play pieces like Kitten on the Keys by Zez Confrey, Black and White by George Botsford, Bag of Rags by WR McKanlass, Scott Joplin pieces, K.K. Ragtime by Kazumi Totaka, Apple Sass by Harry Belding, American Beauty by Joseph Lamb and many, many more.  The links are pages to free music sheets download.

Not all pianists born with a hearing loss have the same amount or type of frequency hearing loss. Some are born with mild hearing loss others have severe to profound hearing loss. I wear a hearing aid in my right ear while my left is no good. I can hear all of the 88-key notes. Some deaf pianists are unable to hear the higher notes or the lower notes even with the help of a  hearing aid. Some pianists wear cochlear implants.  Each of us has a preference to a particular type of piano pieces we like to play whether it'd be classical, country, jazz, ragtime, rock, or boogie woogie. For me, I am simply fascinated with the ragtime and novelty pieces. So I prefer to spend my time playing those pieces than classical scores.

What do you prefer to play?

Friday, December 19, 2014


It's been awhile since my last post. Things have been busy distracting me from my blogging.  I also had to stop playing the piano for several months to allow my upper back to heal. I could not sit for more than 10 minutes on my piano bench without getting some serious aches and pain between my shoulder blades. Results of sleeping on a bed that did my back no favor. Switched to a different bedding and can see the improvements. I now can sit on the bench an hour or so at time and not feel the effects. Plus, my left hand has been experiencing trigger finger type condition. I just do too much with my hands working the yard, chopping woods, hammering, working on the computer laptop, piano playing and any gripping motion. So, I'm trying to limit my playing time on the piano but I have recently been practicing and playing more over the last month playing the piano about 2 times a week. I'd like to do it everyday but that may have to wait. 

I plan on doing more ragtime piano blogging. Being a (the only) deaf pianists, that I know of ,who enjoy playing ragtime. It is not often I come across a deaf or hard of hearing pianist. But, ah, so many things to do right now.